9 Essentials for Living in the Alaskan Bush

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A dog sled team training on the frozen Kuskokwim River

Now that we have lived here a couple years I find myself echoing some of the same advice to new teachers each fall. We learned the hard way, and I hope that the information I’ve collected here can help someone in the future avoid some of our mistakes. Albeit, most of our mistakes have turned into great stories, (like how you should ALWAYS choose priority shipping, or you will end up with a fridge containing only Jello and wild caught salmon) but they didn’t seem so funny at the time.

I’ve compiled a list of ‘essentials’ for anyone thinking of making the move to rural Alaska. Now, most of these I think would be pretty universal, but remember that Alaska is a HUGE state- and has a lot of diversity in its land. Make sure you do your research and ask questions about the specific location you will be moving to. We live in the Kuskokwim Delta of South West Alaska, and it is vastly different from say, the Northern Slope.

 

Essential #1: Good Quality Winter Gear

Don’t wait until you are here to get your winter gear. Cold weather comes early, and especially if you come from a more temperate climate, you are going to want that heavy coat sooner than others. Your winter gear needs to be from head to toe. Wind chills are intense and frostbite is a real threat. Think, Hat, Balaclava or face cover, Scarf, Heavy Coat (longer is better!), Snowpants or Snowskirt (my personal favorite!), wool socks and good snow boots.

If you haven’t had to buy good quality gear before, the price tags can be a little scary, but don’t skimp- try and shop sales, or if you know far enough ahead of time, see if you can get anything from last season. Online you can find great quality stuff from Lands End (my favorite) LLBean, or REI. There are also several stores in Anchorage that ship to the Bush and have a great selection.

 

Essential #2: Ice Cleats

Where we are at there is a ton of ice, and in the winter there is no plowing, so Ice Cleats are essential for walking anywhere in the village. We decided to skip the cheap elastic type pairs at a neighbor’s suggestion and got the heavy duty “Stabil-icers”. It has been worth every penny. They have held up great for two winters getting daily use. And when you have to go out and walk the dog multiple times a day they are a lifesaver. I had fallen several times in the week before they came in the mail, and not once since.

 

Essential #3: Good Rain Boots

The last clothing essential would be good rain boots. There is a lot of debate about brands, but really you just want to avoid the cheap pairs that will split after a few uses. It rains a lot in the spring (and right now in the fall!) and at least in South West Alaska that means mud- and lots of it. I literally only wear my rain boots and winter boots outside in Alaska. I have other shoes I keep at the school, but I avoid wearing them outside. Not everyone does this, but I have found I have to clean my shoes a lot less, and it is much simpler.

 

Essential #4: Blackout Curtains

Regardless of where you live in Alaska, there will be days where the sun is out longer than you want to be awake. Blackout curtains for at least your bedroom are lifesavers. I have them in every window in our apartment and try to close them before it gets too late, otherwise it is so easy to find yourself still awake and full of energy at 1am.

 

Essential #5: Candles/Lantern

Electricity isn’t always a given in the Bush. It can go in and out, and especially in the winter time you want to have alternate sources of light. We have multiple candles as well as a couple battery powered lanterns that have gotten a lot of use.

 

Essential #6: Extra Water

The water situation is different everywhere you go, but we have learned that it is important to have extra water at all times. We have piped water, but when things break it can be days before they are fixed or a part comes in. So we have containers with extra water for drinking as well as non-potable water for other uses.

 

Essential #7: Alaska Airlines Credit Card

While not strictly essential, you would be hard pressed to find someone out here who doesn’t take advantage of this card. Travel is expensive and airline miles are gold. In addition to miles you also earn an annual companion fare for only $99 plus tax. You pay an annual fee for the card, but it is more than worth it to us.

 

Essential #8: Amazon Prime

Another negotiable essential, but with recent changes to shipping rates for almost every company out there, Amazon Prime is becoming more and more my one stop shop for everything. Prime doesn’t guarantee two day shipping to us, but it does send priority, which means we get things in about a week if all goes well.

 

Essential #9: A Good Sense of Humor and Laid Back Attitude

Things are always in flux when traveling and living in the Bush. I was a serious type A personality prior to moving here, and it hasn’t always been easy, but relaxing my attitude and remembering to laugh has made this whole experience a lot more enjoyable.

 

Like I said before, Alaska is an extremely diverse state and not everywhere in the Bush is identical, so needs vary. What are some things that you have found to be essential? Did I miss anything? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments!

 

*I have not been compensated by any of the brands mentioned, I just seriously love their products! As with everything, you can take my opinions with a grain of salt.

Winter Walks

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Ravens Flying Over the Boardwalk

Alaska winters are long and dark. I’m always looking forward to the time of year when the days are getting longer, and the temperatures are rising enough to go outside for more than just a few minutes. The past week has had some really nice days where I could do just that. Winter walks are some of my favorite. You experience the vastness of the world in a different way after being cooped up inside all winter. The crisp air bites your face, but it feels fresh and exciting, and as long as you wear your ice cleats, you can really go anywhere!

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I’ve taken several walks now, strapping the baby into his carrier and bundling him under one of my husband’s coats. I’m worried about him getting chilled, but after each walk he has been toasty warm- kept so by my own body heat. I don’t know how people live without baby wearing, it is seriously a lifesaver, and one of my favorite things. You have a happy cuddly baby, and you can continue to actually do things- it’s a win-win!

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Sammy, our dog, has enjoyed these walks as well. I feel bad for her being cooped up in the winter as well. We take her out multiple times a day, but when temperatures are below zero, we hardly want to go trekking on an adventure, so she settles for running around the apartment for her exercise (sorry downstairs neighbors!)

Winter Walks Sammy

Winter is far from over yet, but I think the worst is over. Tickets for the river breakup are being sold. Nathan and I have decided to try and guess this year. Last year we didn’t buy any tickets, but his guess was off by only a day. Essentially the idea is that people buy tickets to guess the day and time that the river ice will break up. They have a tripod set up in Bethel on the ice, with a rope leading to a timer. When the tripod collapses, it pulls the rope, stopping the timer. People from all over the delta try to guess the exact date and time. Whoever has the closest guess wins the prize of $10,000. Talk about an awesome opportunity!

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Last Years Tripod on the River

I’m looking forward to the warmer weather and longer walks. As the boardwalks clear up, I will be able to take off my heavy boots and cleats, and the longer days will let us take walks after dinner. I can’t wait!

 

Do you ever take winter walks? Where are your favorite places to explore? Share with me below in the comments!

Throw Party and Baby’s Yupik Name

Hello internet! It’s been a couple of crazy weeks since I last wrote. I was a little bit busy having a baby, and learning how to keep him alive while only half awake myself. Fortunately I had my amazing mother fly all the way out to Alaska, first to Anchorage and then out to the village with my husband, new baby and I. It has been a hazy time filled with laughter, tears, and clichés. 🙂

Introducing Baby Emmett, born 9/19 in Anchorage AK at 7lbs 5oz.

Introducing Baby Emmett, born 9/19 in Anchorage AK at 7lbs 5oz.

I never expected anyone from my family to come visit us out in the bush. In fact, for the most part, I don’t recommend it. There isn’t much to do out here, and with the price of airline tickets I think it’s a much better idea to meet up somewhere tropical. However, with the birth of her first grandchild, my mother would have it no other way and I was so relieved to have her here, guiding my husband and I through those crazy first days.

Mom left the village today, starting her almost day and a half journey through five different airports back to New York. I’m really sad to see her go, but know that we will visit again over Christmas, and really I call her almost every day anyway!

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While she was here I was excited to share not only the new baby but also some of the local culture with her. We were fourtuante enough to attend a feast in the village on Sunday. This feast was held for two of the boys who had their first moose this year. I was very excited for them, as they are some of my favorite kids in the village, and it is always nice to go to a happy feast.

While we were there, Baby Emmett received his Yupik name. Both my husband and I received Yupik names last year, and knew that it was only a matter of time before baby got one as well. His Yupik name was passed down to him from a girl who passed away last month. Her family member was so filled with joy to see a new baby to give the name to, and it really touched me as well. I think it is amazing to keep names alive in this way, and really honor those who have come before us. It is a way of keeping in touch with those we lose. His given name is Anguuq (pronounced like ung-ook). It doesn’t have a ‘meaning’ or English translation, but I love it, and all the history behind it.

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After the feast, the family was having a ‘throw party’. Throw parties are more of a coastal village tradition that goes hand in hand with seal hunting, so I had never attended one. I was excited to share this new experience with my mom. It was cold and started to rain icy pellets from the sky part way through, but it was still a good time.

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The two boys kicked off the event by tossing out stuffed moose to the women gathered below. Only women participate in the throw. After they tossed those out, they began throwing all sorts of other items off the roof. It was exciting, and a little dangerous (have you ever had a package of clothespins thrown at you? They hurt to catch with half frozen hands!) but I had a great time. All the items thrown are useful in some way, especially when you don’t have access to larger stores. Plates, socks, wash clothes, cups, cooking utensils, and laundry baskets among other things rained down with the sleet.

The things mom and I caught.

The things mom and I caught.

Waiting to begin!

Waiting to begin!

Overall, I think my mom had a good couple of weeks visiting, and we will miss her a lot- and not just because she did my laundry!

Culture Week at PKA

Two elders soaking the caribou beard for a dance fan.

Two elders soaking the caribou beard for a dance fan.

The past week here in Napaskiak has been full of cultural events at the school. I was so excited to learn more about the traditional Yupik culture and even be able to participate in some activities. I was substituting, so my mornings consisted of classes with the students, and then the afternoon was dedicated to cultural activities. Some of the younger grades even had full day activities.

Elders and adults from around the village came into the school to share their knowledge, and in some cases their supplies or wisdom passed down to them from previous elders. Crafts included learning to crochet, bead, sew qaspeqs (native shirts that are similar to cotton hoodies pronounced like ‘guss-puk’) , leather yo-yos and shell bags, ice picks for fishing, slingshots, and carving various things from antler and ivory. There were also sessions that focused on dog sledding, Native Youth Olympics and traditional native cooking.

The husband wanted to have a qaspeq to wear this week, so naturally because I now have my sewing machine here, he asked if I could make one for him. I was able to borrow a pattern from a neighbor, and pulled one together using some fabric he had purchased in Bethel that weekend during the Cama-i dance festival.

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It was fun to make, although difficult at a few points, and I don’t think it turned out too poorly. The hood is a mess, but as long as he kept it down, it wasn’t too noticeable. Some of the women at the school complimented him on it, and he was very proud to say his wife made it. Apparently it was impressive to the students that I made it in one night. I did have the advantage of the sewing machine to make things go fast.

The finished product!

The finished product!

The first day I didn’t do much other than supervise, and I was in awe of how good the high school kids were at some of the trades. One student was working with mammoth ivory and had fashioned a ring that was stunning. The husband was also working on a ring- his made out of antler, and attested to how difficult it was. In the end it took him a couple tries, but I think it turned out great, and I love wearing it!

The Husband slimmed the ring down a little bit after this to make it more comfortable. He carved it out of an antler. I have so much respect for the subsistence lifestyle that learns to use all parts of the animal.

The Husband slimmed the ring down a little bit after this to make it more comfortable. He carved it out of an antler. I have so much respect for the subsistence lifestyle that learns to use all parts of the animal.

The second day had elder talks, which I was very interested to attend. There is no strict age limit or guideline on what it means to be an elder, but it is usually agreed upon whether someone is or isn’t. The girls and the boys were split up for these talks, and I sat in with the girls. Lots of interesting pieces of history and cultural knowledge were passed down, but it felt like a good conversation with a grandparent. We laughed and learned in Yupik and English. One of the elders who only spoke Yupik was very insightful, and I was lucky to have another elder sitting next to me translating what she was saying.

Messages of love and respect seemed to dominate the talks as the most important cultural values they could hold onto, and I couldn’t agree more.

The third day, I was asked by an elder to jump in and make a dance fan. I couldn’t say no. It was a lot harder than it looked at first, but I struggled through, and she helped me fix all my mistakes!

The start of the dance fan.

The start of the dance fan.

The finished weaved part of the fan. I still need to finish sewing on the Caribou fur along the outside.

The finished weaved part of the fan. I still need to finish sewing on the Caribou fur along the outside.

In traditional Yupik dance, the dancers hold the fans in each hand to accentuate the movement.

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Most of the days ended at about 4pm, where we would gather in the gym to taste what they had been cooking in the kitchen. They made fry breads, moose soup, caribou soup, halibut chowder, and lots of akutaq (eskimo ice cream pronounces ‘a-goo-tuk’). It’s funny that I didn’t really care for akutaq before I got pregnant, but now that I am, I can’t get enough of it! Everyone makes theirs differently, and began swapping recipes at the table. I can’t wait to try more!

Akutaq! Yum!

Akutaq! Yum!

The week culminated in a gallery showing of all the students’ projects in the gym during their normal dance time. I was really impressed with their work, especially some of the younger kids!

All in all, I had a really great time this past week. Sometimes I really marvel at the opportunities that have been presented to me here, and all of the things I wouldn’t have learned if the Husband and I didn’t have the faith to take the plunge and move up here. I can’t wait to keep learning more and more!

Home Inventory

I was inspired today when reading a blog post from the awesome Cunningham Family in Bush Alaska Blog. That family has been living in the bush for several years and I am an avid reader, always hoping to glean tips from them! Today she talked about taking an inventory of household items so that they knew what they would need after summer break. I had not thought of that, but it is brilliant! There is no way that I’m going to remember what I have in my pantry here after two months away.

So I quickly flipped over to google and tried to find a good template. Unfortunately, although I found many beautiful templates, none of them were exactly what I was looking for. Fortunately, I know my way around Excel, so I hunkered down and started formatting what I would need. All of my stage management skills are paying off on this one!

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This is the start of my home inventory. Over the next couple months I will be filling out each section. What you can’t see are my sections for Office Supplies, Pet Care, and the ever-important Misc section for the things that don’t fit elsewhere! I’m confident that this will help so much when planning our Bush Orders and shopping trips in Anchorage in August. I even put a column for how many we will need to buy, so half of my shopping list will be done before I ever have to worry about it.

I would be happy to share my completed template with anyone else who needs one. You can find the file on dropbox for download here. To add more rows in any section simply click in the section you want to add to Click HOME > INSERT > INSERT SHEET ROWS as many times as you need.

I hope you enjoyed the inventory! Have you ever done a home inventory before? How did you organize it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Baby in the Bush!

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We’ve all seen this sign at the hospital or doctor’s office before. I’ve never had to think much about it. Actually the most thought I’ve ever given it was that I believed if you were pregnant you couldn’t get an x-ray.

Turns out you can.

In an exciting turn of events out here in the Bush, I found out I was pregnant because of the warning of a sign like this. Actually it was translated into Yupik as well, but you get the idea. Flashback to the end of January when I woke up with some really bad shortness of breath. Long story short, I visited the clinic in the village, took an inhaler and some Motrin, but they wanted me to be seen at the Hospital in Bethel for x-rays. They had heard some wheezing and wanted to make sure I didn’t have pneumonia.

After a ride with the principal in a truck over the frozen river, I was checked in and triaged at the hospital. It’s times like this that I’m so grateful that I live as close to Bethel as I do. It’s only a 20 minute drive, which is actually closer than the hospital I used to go to growing up- we would drive 40 minutes. Granted, the logistics out here are a little more difficult, and I was lucky that someone with a car was available, and that the river was still frozen solid.

I was asked by the x-ray technician if I could be pregnant. I looked at the calendar. Well… it was really early, almost too soon to tell I thought, but I said there was indeed a small chance. I felt a little silly when they rolled me away without an x-ray and I had to wait another hour in the waiting room for the results of my pregnancy test. During that time I was texting with my husband who was in Anchorage for the weekend at a teacher’s conference. I was annoyed with waiting, breathing better, and just wanted to sleep. But that would have to wait.

When I was (finally) ushered back for my x-ray the nurse had invited the lab technician up to give me my results- the test was positive! They were all on edge- not knowing how I would react, but all I could think of was that there was no way I was going to be able to tell my husband until he came home in two days, as this was not news I could break via text message. The nurse laughed and told me she didn’t know what to do either.

As for an x-ray when pregnant- you just get wrapped in extra heavy duty lead aprons, and luckily they were targeting my lungs and not lower. It was uncomfortable, but completely safe.

Now I’m just about done with my first trimester (depending on who you ask!) at 13 and a half weeks. I’m excited and exhausted. My sister-in-law is also pregnant and due a month before me, so that is exciting as well- it will be a year full of babies and love. As a first-time-mom (it feels so weird to say that!) I am going through a lot of new firsts, and learning a whole lot; but mostly I’m learning to just relax. I will be seeing doctors in 3 different cities during this pregnancy because we won’t be living in Alaska over the summer, but baby isn’t due until the end of September when we will be back here. They don’t offer any sort of pain medication during childbirth in Bethel, and I’m not comfortable without having the option, so I’ve decided to deliver in Anchorage. The logistics are kind of insane. The schedule of appointments is also more spread out here, and I am learning to just trust the doctors and trust in the fact that women have given birth for thousands of years without checking in with a doctor every other week. Thankfully everything seems to be right on track and the doctor said both baby and I were looking healthy, and that is all I can hope for.

I promise to continue blogging about Alaska adventures and writing, and that this won’t turn into a ‘mommy blog’ (not that there is anything wrong with mommy blogs- I read enough of them now!) but I just wanted to share the reason I haven’t been as active with writing lately. Hopefully I will catch that second trimester energy everyone keeps telling me about!

Oh, and for those who are curious, this is how we announced the pregnancy to Facebook: (can you tell we love Dr. Who??)

Much to the excitement of Mum and Not-Mum!

Much to the excitement of Mum and Not-Mum!

Thanks for reading!

DIY Laundry Detergent Powder

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I used to be the type of person who just grabbed whatever the cheapest cleaning supplies and laundry detergents at the store. When I learned that the village we were moving to in Alaska didn’t have a traditional grocery store, and that the nearest dollar store was in Anchorage over 400 miles away I admit that I panicked. I didn’t know what I would do. But then I jumped on over to Pinterest and found a plethora of different DIY recipes for cleaning supplies.

Specifically, I found this really great laundry detergent powder recipe from the Liz Marie Blog. It was all dry ingredients that I could ship in and supposedly lasted a year! It was the perfect solution. With a little work, I wouldn’t have to worry about paying over $20 for a bottle of liquid detergent several times a year.

I made only two small changes to Liz Marie’s formula. I could not find the fels-naptha laundry soap bars, and ended up with some pretty fabulous bright pink Zote Soap and it has worked great! I also decided to forego any scented crystals. The formula is as follows:

1. Three bars of Laundry soap. I used the pink Zote Soap.
2. One four pound, twelve ounce box of Borax.
3. One four pound box of arm & hammer baking soda.
4. One box of arm & hammer super washing soda. (Large box- one size only)
5. Four pounds of Oxy Clean.

Grate the bars of laundry soap (careful not to cut yourself- I scraped myself on the grater a couple times!) and then mix all of the ingredients. I used a really large trash bag so that I could mix it well. It is very heavy and difficult to mix in a container.

After everything was mixed I put it in a container with an airtight seal to keep out moisture. About half of my mix fit into the jar, and I clipped the trash bag closed and I stored it in a small trashcan.

I did my shopping at Sam’s Club in Anchorage, and was able to find all the ingredients in bulk. In fact, the box of Oxy Clean was even more than four pounds, so I have extra left over.

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Six months later of using the soap I still have just over half left. Each load I use half a scoop (I got the scoop from the large Oxi-Clean box.) I have a frontloading HE machine and it works fine. Once or twice I found a sliver of undissolved soap, but 99% of the time it has dissolved completely and cleans great. I’m very happy with it. It is great on my sensitive skin, and I plan to make more next year when this runs out.

Have you tried a DIY Laundry Powder? What about other cleaning supplies? How did you like it? Let me know in the comments below!

Flying by the Seat of Our Pants

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If I have learned anything by living out in the bush, it is that mistakes are expensive, and by golly you are bound to make mistakes. Traveling home for Christmas wasn’t a mistake, but I sure learned some important lessons that will hopefully help me save some money in the future.

Lesson Learned #1: First of all, if you plan on moving to Alaska (and I might have said this before, but it begs repeating) get the Alaska Airlines Credit Card. You will be flying a lot, and the points and miles add up. There are also a lot of other benefits if you have the premium card like companion fares, etc. Okay, now that I have made my little advertisement (I swear I’m not getting paid, but wouldn’t that be cool) let’s move on to booking flights.

Lesson Learned #2: In October there are PFD Sales all throughout Alaska. The PFD is the Permanent Fund Distribution, or oil dividend money that every resident of Alaska receives if they have been living in the state for more than 1 calendar year (Jan-Dec) and have the intention of staying. Because of this money being injected into the economy, everyone is vying for a piece of your PFD and the sales abound. We were given a heads up about these sales and that they were the perfect time to buy your tickets home for Christmas.

Lesson Learned #3: The time of day you fly out of your hub DOES matter. I scheduled our Christmas flights for just whenever, and it ran into some expensive problems. To get from the village to Bethel you have to travel by frozen river or plane. The planes only fly at specific times, and the first flight out of Bethel from Alaska Airlines is scheduled before any of the small charters can get you into town. So I had to travel in a day before and get a hotel room. Which of course was about $200 for a single night, and the only place in town that would accept my dog. Like I said, expensive mistakes. At least with the extra time I was able to get my Alaska driver’s license! Looking on the bright side of life!

Lesson Learned #4:This one only applies if you are flying with a pet, but it was an expensive mistake. If you book multiple airlines (a common thing when going from AK to the East coast) you have to pay EACH airline’s pet fee. So we paid Alaska Airlines AND Delta BOTH WAYS to take our puppy for the holidays. She is wonderful and we love her so it was worth it. (and would have cost the same to board her in Anchorage or Bethel) From now on, we will fly into a different airport on the East Coast in order to stay on Alaska Airlines the entire trip.

Lesson Learned #5: You will rationalize overspending when visiting the Lower 48. Grocery stores and the mall were dangerous, sneakily expensive places over the holidays. Prices looked so good in comparison to Alaska that I didn’t keep track of spending like I would have normally. It adds up.

Life is about the adventure, and hopefully you can learn something along the way. I am already planning a trip to Tampa to see my sister’s Master’s Thesis Defense, and have made much better choices in my flights- hopefully saving time, money and a little bit of my sanity!

Alaskan Window Garden


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For my birthday this year, I decided that I was going to get some planters and seeds and start a window garden. My downstairs neighbors have had some good luck with plants in the windows, so even though we only have about 6 hours of sunlight, the days are getting longer and I have some amazing south facing windows that will allow the plants to soak up every minute of the precious Alaskan sun.

The ground in Napaskiak isn’t practical for an outdoor garden, and it’s much too cold most of the time, but there are successful greenhouses I’ve read about in Bethel and other places, so I’m hoping that my window garden works well too.

I was babysitting today so I had some wonderful help in filling the planters with potting soil and then planting a variety of seeds. I also used an old butter tub that I cleaned out to plant some of the free flower seeds that I was sent with my vegetables.


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If everything goes well, in about 60-75 days I should have some great young vegetables and flowers. I planted Chives, Spinach, Radishes and some tiny peppers. It would be wonderful to have something growing and green, as well as an alternative to canned or frozen vegetables. Shopping in Bethel for fresh produce is just too painful on the pocketbook, so in the end if I get vegetables it will be worth it, and maybe I will expand to some other things!
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Let’s all pray now that my thumb is green and not brown!

Home for the Holidays

The snowy view out our window in Central New York over the holidays. There was more snow there than in Alaska!

The snowy view out our window in Central New York over the holidays. There was more snow there than in Alaska!

It has been a while since my last post, and I apologize. I really intended to write more over the holidays, but I was much busier than I thought visiting family and finishing my NaNoNovel (more on that later!) I visited family on the East Coast in the Lower 48 for just over a month during the holidays. It has been exciting and overwhelming all at once. I didn’t realize how I had gotten used to the slower lifestyle in Alaska until I touched down in Anchorage. Don’t get me wrong- I walked straight to Starbucks and ordered a Venti Eggnog Latte and couldn’t have been happier about that- but I was also super aware of the fact that there were more people in the airport than my entire village.

I left Alaska about 10 days before my husband and flew to Syracuse New York with our dog. I think I was more stressed out about her flying for the first time than I was about the 24+ hour trip. I actually had to leave our village on Monday afternoon, visited the DMV to get my Alaska Driver’s license and then I checked into my hotel with the puppy. Our flight the next morning was the first one out of Bethel, which was why we had to go in the day before. A charter from the village wouldn’t be able to get us early enough. Logistics are complicated out here, and I can’t wait until we own our own 4-wheeler and can drive around ourselves. Anyway, I left the village on Monday afternoon and after 5 planes, 2 taxi rides, 1 airport train, and another airport bus transfer I arrived in Syracuse New York where my mother was waiting to pick up me and the dog.
They lost my luggage, but considering the fact that the dog and I were safe, and we had missed the blizzard by a couple hours I was totally okay. My mother drove us to The Gristmill, a truck stop diner that I love. Real eggs, hot chocolate, bacon, sausage never tasted so good.

I gained back all the weight I had lost in Alaska by going back to eating fast food. It’s interesting how I crave things while I’m away and can’t have them, but then they seem like so much less of a priority when I can just hop in my car and be there in five minutes. Regardless I ate far more fast food than I should have, and it was interesting to actually feel how it affected my body. I felt sick after some of my old favorites. Something I couldn’t get enough of though was espresso. I miss that so much while I am in Alaska, and while I have some instant, it just isn’t the same. Too bad espresso machines are so super expensive!

Spending time with family was wonderful, and made me realize how many people read my blog (beside just my mom!) So now I will have to play catch up, and make sure I keep writing.

Bradley Family Photo during Christmas

Bradley Family Photo during Christmas

Smith Family Photo Then and Now. We are only together twice a year if we are lucky because we are scattered all over the country, so my Dad thought it would be cool to take this photo!

Smith Family Photo Then and Now. We are only together twice a year if we are lucky because we are scattered all over the country, so my Dad thought it would be cool to take this photo!

Christmas was wonderful, and I got to spend time with lots of my family, both in PA and NY. Logistically, things are more difficult nowadays, but I wouldn’t trade the time for anything. The break also included my birthday on New Year’s Day. Normally, I just have some friends over at home and have a small party there, but this year was different. I don’t really have a place that is my own on the East Coast, so I decided that for the first time in my life (other than the very first year!) I would venture outside of my home on New Year’s Eve.

A montage of wonderful moments from a wonderful night spent with- you guessed it- wonderful people!

A montage of wonderful moments from a wonderful night spent with- you guessed it- wonderful people!

I’m glad I did. I got together with some of my oldest friends from childhood and my sister and husband and we went to the casino. It was overwhelming and fun, and we had a great time- even sprinting outside from the car to the door without coats in the frigid weather.
I feel so blessed to have such amazing friends and family. Everyone took the time out of their busy schedules to meet with us, and talk for a while made me feel so at home. Thank you.
We also got some good shopping done and mailed it all back so it was here when we arrived back in Napaskiak. I was literally hauling cases of canned goods into our cart to mail flat rate back to the village. I am planning a blog post or two about what grocery shopping is like in the bush, so just wait.

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Returning to the village on January 13th there were fireworks for Russian New Year that had been delayed. They were beautiful in addition to the bonfire that everyone came out for down by the frozen river. It seemed to be the perfect end to our vacation. Nathan is back to school this morning, and I am back to the daily writing as well. Stay tuned!